Phnom Penh, March 15, 2002
Dear Dorothy,

Thank you for your message. My replies are between lines in color.

Dear Nuon So Thero,
    Thank you for all you did to make our visit both comfortable and exciting.  It was a great trip, although we learned from you of the suffering you all incurred.  The visit to the school was truly eye opening.  It is one thing to read about rural conditions, and another to encounter them. 
    After I came home, I realized that there were far more questions that I should have asked, but procrastinated in asking them to you.  Now that our Unitarian Fellowship has asked me to give a 10-minute talk on the rural schools–as an example of doing good–I can no longer delay in asking you more about the schools.
1.  Are they divided into grades? (Matt Madden’s report mentioned first grade)
     If so, are they by age or by level of learning?
Yes, the students are divided into grades. They are graded by the level of learning. They use 10 mark as the highest and 5 as an average.
2.  What is the age range of the children in the school?
The students start from six to 12 year-olds.
3.  The year the school started, I assume all children were basically at the same level of learning.  Were classes divided by age?  By what ages?  Were there four classes in the morning, representing four ages?  Were the afternoon classes four different ages?
There are five years in the primary school. Everybody must start from the first year regardless of their age. The ages are mixed and there is no seperation. The schools have two shifts because they (a) follow the Ministry of Education guidelines and (b) do not have enough space  for all the schoolchildren.
2.  In subsequent years, was one class added and another “graduated”?  In other words, how long do the children theoretically remain at the school? 
In every new school year, a new class replaces the the previous one. The first level move to the second, third move to the fourt, to fifth, and the fift level will move to secondary school (senior high school).
In our country, when a new school is built, it has provision for different levels, and children are put into appropriate level, according to their previous learning.  But in the case of the rural schools, most have had no previous learning, so I’m trying to understand how a progression from one level to another works.  I assume since they enter at the same level of learning, that your levels must be on the basis of age.
The level is not set on the basis of age. In some area which there was no school or were oftentime interupted by fighting, the 12 years old children  may still on the first level. The Ministry of Education is trying to reduce the gross-age children and encourage children who become 6 years-old to go to school.
3.  What is being taught?  I gather that English and computer skills are taught.  Are reading and writing in Kymer also taught  (I presume so since Matt mentioned Kymer fonts?  what about arithmetic and geography? 

The public schools teach general knowledge such as Khmer literacy, math, physics, geography, history etc. There is no computer course nor English course in the primary schools. These courses are provided by our organization and at the schools built by us.

4.  Are different groups of children taught different things? 

Each level teaches different things. They are taugh different things and in different format.

How long do children tend to stay in school?
Five years at primary schools, and seven years in secondary schools.
What are the most difficult problems the school faces? (something more specific than poverty)

Lack of  school supplies, not enough school buildings, lack of teachers, lack of management and transparency. The teachers get low salaries, around $25 per months and have to wait three to four months to receive their one month payment.

What are the most rewarding aspects of these schools?
Education is the most importand issue to develop young generation of Cambodia to leapfrog from poverty. A Cambodian phrase says that: “schools are the field of knowledges”. Cambodian children are hungry for knowledge. In some places, because there are no schools, they learn under the tree. Children used to help their parents do farming in the field and abandon their studies but children at our schools consider that coming to class is more important than going to the field. Their parents also encourage their chidlren to come to  school.
 I hope these answers help you something.
thanks for all you’ve done.  I hope responding to my questions won’t be too bothersome.
You’re welcome.
Thank you and best regards,